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MERICS researchers discuss and analyze developments and current affairs in China: What is behind the Belt and Road Initiative? What kind of leader is Xi Jinping? How should we assess China’s climate change policies? How does the Chinese government use social media to its own ends?

In addition to MERICS’s own staff, other experts on China and guest speakers at MERICS also take part in the interviews.

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Ying Zhu on Chinese cinema: “Censorship is a very challenging issue”

February 22, 2019

Film fans still wonder why Zhang Yimou’s “One Second” was withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival. The official explanation that “technical reasons” were to blame only fueled speculation that Chinese censors objected to the film’s debut. Leading Chinese film scholar Ying Zhu, who teaches in New York and Hong Kong, discusses Zhang Yimou’s case in the new MERICS Experts podcast. For Chinese filmmakers “censorship is a very challenging issue”, she notes, adding that controls over film narratives were tightened last year. The Chinese leadership regards film as a key soft-power tool and uses the cinema – often with help from Hollywood - to get is messages out.  As the collaboration between China and Hollywood matures, Zhu warns, “we will see more and more stories with highly sanitized China images.”

Jeffrey Ding on AI in China

January 28, 2019

China wants to become the global leader in Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2030 and therefore pumps huge amounts of funding into AI research and development. But how realistic are China’s ambitions? How advanced is China in AI? Its facial recognition technology already ranks among the world’s best, says Jeffrey Ding of the University of Oxford, but in many other areas China still lags behind the United States. That’s because easy access to huge amount of data isn’t everything, says Ding in the latest MERICS Experts podcast.

Adrian Zenz on re-education camps in Xinjiang

January 11, 2019

China’s policies in the north-western region of Xinjiang have come under international criticism in recent months, especially the detention of tens if not hundreds of thousands Muslim Uighurs. The Chinese government says the re-education camps and other surveillance measures in Xinjiang are part of a campaign to fight terrorism and religious extremism. But the independent researcher Adrian Zenz, who has studied numerous government documents on Xinjiang, says China attempts to enforce “complete control” and loyalty towards the Communist Party. The CCP wants long-term generational change and younger Uighurs to forget their religious and cultural roots, Zenz says in the latest MERICS Experts podcast.

Alicia García Herrero: What the Sino-American trade war really is about

November 28, 2018

The meeting between US President Trump and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina did not lead to an end to the Sino-American trade war, but only to a truce between the two super powers. According to the Hong Kong-based economist Alicia García Herrero the truce gives both sides more time to disentangle their economies from each other. What the trade war is really about, she argues, is a battle for hegemony, a kind of economic Cold War. Europe is caught in the middle between its two largest trading partners. Some industrial sectors could benefit from increased trade with China, García Herrero says, but the EU also has to be aware that the Sino-American trade dispute carries huge risks for Europe. Listen to Alicia García Herrero in the new MERICS Experts podcast.

Jane Duckett: "Rural areas still struggle to provide basic health care"

November 22, 2018

In the past 15 years, China has made considerable progress in setting up a comprehensive health care system. Today, over 92 percent of Chinese have basic health insurance. But huge challenges remain notably in rural areas. While people in urban centers often have access to modern facilities and well-trained doctors, rural residents still struggle to get basic care such as vaccines, says Jane Duckett, a health care specialist from the University of Glasgow and co-editor of a new MERICS report on social development in China. One of the big issues is “training the right kind of health care workers to deliver primary care,“ says Duckett in the latest MERICS Experts Podcast. 

This is part 2 of a series based on a new MERICS publication on social services in China: "Serve the people. Innovation and IT in China’s social development agenda.”

Theresa Fallon on China’s BRI: “The EU needs to proceed very carefully”

October 2, 2018

When Xi Jinping first launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the idea of improving trade and transport links between China, Asia and Europe was received favourably in many European countries. Especially central and south-eastern European governments were keen on Chinese infrastructure investments. Five years on, the mood has somewhat changed. There are concerns over “debt diplomacy” and political influencing. And there’s pushback from Brussels. The EU Commission last month published its own plan for better connecting Asia and Europe. Still, the BRI presents a dilemma for the EU, says Theresa Fallon of CREAS, a Brussels-based think tank: How to engage with China without compromising European standards and values? In the new MERICS Experts Podcast she argues that “the EU needs to proceed very carefully.”

Frank N. Pieke: “Xi Jinping will find it harder than expected to secure a third term”

September 10, 2018

For years, many China observers believed that the Chinese Communist Party would eventually crumble under the contradictions between a Leninist political system and a dynamic society. “But we were all proved wrong,” says Frank N. Pieke, the new head of MERICS. The Chinese Communist Party is more modern, more powerful and confident than ever, he says. Yet, Xi Jinping, who likes to present himself as an all-powerful state and party leader, faces headwinds from within the apparatus and might find it more difficult than expected to secure a third term. People in Europe, Pieke says, need to face up to the new realities in China and get to grips with their own differing interests. China looks different from Athens or Duisburg than from Berlin or Paris, he says. Listen to Frank N. Pieke talking about his views on China and his plans for the future of MERICS in the new MERICS Experts Podcast.

Martha Bayles: “Hollywood is compromising freedom of expression to stay in China”

June 22, 2018

For Hollywood China is a huge market it cannot afford to ignore. But closer co-operation with the Chinese movie industry has not always gone well: Expensive co-productions like “The Great Wall” flopped at box offices worldwide in 2016. More recently, a series of high profile deals hit snags. Yet Hollywood is still keen on China and willing to go a long way to please Chinese censors by tweaking scripts, making Chinese movie characters look nicer or replacing Chinese villains with baddies from North Korea. “Hollywood is compromising freedom of expression to stay in China,” warns film critic and Boston College lecturer Martha Bayles. In the new MERICS Experts podcast she argues that the US film industry should become more mindful of China’s influences and draw clear red lines.

Fu King-wa: “Chinese censorship has evolved into full information control”

June 15, 2018

Internet censorship in China has evolved from just blocking websites into an elaborate system of information control, says Fu King-wa, Associate Professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong. Fu has developed projects that track what has been deleted on the Chinese web. His assessment of the current situation is bleak: The space for public expression is depressingly small, he says. The authorities want to control everything. Yet the #MeToo debate in China also demonstrates that that not all discussion can be suppressed – even in China. Listen to Fu King-wa in the MERICS Experts podcast.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow: "Give Chinese children more time to play and have fun"

June 5, 2018

Chinese schools are notorious for their rote learning and endless tests and exams. But the Chinese government wants to change that – at least, the authorities want to introduce more creativity into the classrooms. That’s no easy undertaking, says MERICS Visiting Academic Fellow Didi Kirsten Tatlow, who for many years reported from China for the New York Times. China’s notion of creativity differs from that in the West. Creativity is mainly seen as an instrument for innovation. But for children to become truly creative adults, Tatlow argues, they need time to play and the freedom to think their own way. Yet such an approach is difficult in a country with a strong authoritarian spirit imbedded in both the Communist Party and Chinese culture. Listen to Did Kirsten Tatlow in the latest MERICS Experts podcast.